by Ed Sum
Victoria Film Festival
The film documentary, The Whale, is a springboard for discussion about Luna the orca who was orphaned in Nootka Sound last decade. This name given to this ocean mammal is spiritually appropriate given the legacy he (not she) left behind. For the people involved, there are some moonlit nights where they will not forget him.
This movie serves to summarize the events leading up to his tragic end, and to have some viewers wondering if anything could have been done differently. Some may even ask if there will ever be advances in understanding whale psychology.
Orcas are highly sociable, and when Luna was separated from her pod, he sought the nearest living species to anthropomorphize into. And that meant the people who were living in the area; most came to love this gentle beast, and that’s what this film perfectly paints. What this version of events doesn’t cover is all the red tape and anger that went along with it. Had it managed to go into detail with government officials’ point of view, like their tough-love policy, this movie would have been a very different product.
That version may have been a very political repertoire than a picture postcard look of supernatural British Columbia and a love sonnet to Luna.
At some point in time, that type of documentary or book will come, either by the husband-and-wife team of director Michael Parfit and producer Suzanne Chisholm, or by a third party not so intimately involved in this story. Parfit and Chisholm mentioned after the showing during the Victoria Film Festival that a book is in the works, but as for when that will come, they have an April 2012 deadline to meet.
But in the meantime, this rather lengthy movie will do. It begins with an interesting anecdote from narrator Ryan Reynolds. He says he can relate to certain social cues of when Luna was with his pod and also when he was separated from it. Had this direction have continued later on in the film, many viewers may have felt even more for the whale. There was no follow-through. Reynolds was very good the voice-over he provided, but the script he was reading just needed editing. Or, even better, he should have simply narrated while watching the near-finished film so the connection is more obvious.
While this film tries to explain the symbiotic relationship man needs with nature, obviously modern society has forgotten how that works. The Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations group explains their relationship and this film does a very good job in exploring that connection. More of that outlook may have helped tune viewers to the importance of understanding Nature. Interestingly, in what this film revealed, almost as soon as they put in closing the rites of their former chief, the whale’s fate was almost ordained. Two years after Luna’s unfortunate demise in 2006, other members of his pod family disappeared, namely his brother and mother. Was that their way of recognizing his passing in the ocean waves?
For more information about this movie and where else it will screen, please go to The Whale’s official website.